Chalking up the losses

Big Man [oct 17]Old age… pisshawww! Back in my early 40′s some sort of strange biological clock ticked over and the species over-mind decided I had outlived by biological usefulness. It immediately slowed my metabolism down to a crawl and somehow forgot to tell me about it. So I started to add mass at an infinitesimal but all too relentless rate. Fast-forward a decade later and I’m tilting the scale at 235 pounds — an amount that would be astonishing to those who knew me as a young, skinny-as-a-rail, long-haired freak.

I made a few half-hearted attempts to lose weight every few years or so. Most of these attempts were short lived. One of my more successful attempts was with the Atkins diet where I was able to get from 220 down to about 190. But it was very difficult to keep that up. The weight piled back on in short order.

I had often heard people say (usually skinny people, I noticed) that weight loss was a simple matter of calories consumed versus calories spent. My repast was this: “My, what a simple world we live in where it all boils down to first grade arithmetic.  The human metabolic processes are far more complicated that that statement implies”, I would say authoritatively. And, of course, I was right. :)

But I have learned that those skinny poindexters spouting this trite little formula about calories-in/calories-out — they are also right. And ultimately they are more right than I was; myself hopelessly mired in the complexity of it all. Regardless of the complexities of metabolism, if you do not consume enough calories to fuel your activity then your stored fuel (i.e. fat) must be consumed. There is no other alternative — that’s the metabolic bottom line.

Since my 54th birthday in July, I have been keeping a daily log of all my food intake and have started walking about 10 miles a week for exercise. My goal was simple — lose 1 pound a week until I reach my goal weight. Achieving my goal weight involved losing 25% of my then-current mass and I suspected that it would take me a little over a year to accomplish this. So roughly 20 weeks later I find myself a bit over 20 pounds lighter than when I started. Hallelujah! I’m feeling much stronger and can see real performance improvements in my legs. And as for Bo, my Great Dane, I’m seeing some real muscle definition there on the big fella – an unexpected side benefit. :)

I have heard that you need to keep changing the game slightly as you go along to keep the weight loss momentum going. I have started replacing several meals throughout the week with high protein/high fiber milk shakes. And next week I hope to get some guidance from my friend Wanda in starting up a strength training program to supplement my walks. I am sure that the next 20 pounds will be a bit tougher that this first 20. So I am hoping that by taking these preemptive measures I can sail through with flying colors.

There are several great (and free!) web sites that can help you track your calories, exercise and progress. I started out using Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong site which is  tremendous resource. I still refer back to that site on occasion when I’m searching for information or (especially) inspiration. Alas, LiveStrong does not offer a client for my Android phone yet. So I switched to another great site named MyFitnessPAL which had support for my ‘Droid and offered similar database functionality. You will also find plenty of supportive friends on MyFitnessPal when things are not going well and you need to reach out. Another Android app I use is CardioTrainer which uses the accelerometer and GPS on your phone to track your exercise. I have it set to tell me my speed, distance and calories burned every 5 minutes during my walks.

On my fitness journey I have seen some very inspiring stories. The crucial ingredient more important than all the others appears to be the resolve to keep at it — even when you fail, even when you get discouraged. Oh, that and “measure twice, eat once”!

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